[Marxism] Zizek Watch 2
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Mon Mar 29 12:38:46 MST 2004
Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2, 2004
By SCOTT McLEMEE
The world's leading cultural theorist has held exactly the same academic
title for a quarter of a century. Slavoj Zizek is a "researcher" at the
Institute for Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana, in
Slovenia. He attributes his great intellectual vitality to the fact that
he has no reason to work very hard. "I'm on a permanent sabbatical," he
tells Zizek Watch. "I have a pure research job, where I do nothing."
A strange claim, coming from a man who publishes two or three books a
year. "OK," he says, "I work all the time. But whatever I do counts for
research. For the last two years, I was not even once at my job. I have
a secretary who writes reports for me and knows how to forge my signature."
And so in February, when BBC Radio broadcast a program called "The Art
of Laziness," Mr. Zizek appeared on it as a uniquely qualified expert.
He criticized programs that teach relaxation techniques. "If you look
closely at their leaflets," he said, "they tell you first that we are
hyperactive and should learn to withdraw. But next, the second
paragraph, they always say: 'This way you will relax and be even more
Alluding to the surrealist thinker Georges Bataille, Mr. Zizek denounced
"the hidden economy of 'I am lazy a little bit so that I will work
better.'" Instead, he offered the example of residents of Montenegro, an
earthquake-prone area of the former Yugoslavia. The local ethnic
stereotype is that inhabitants of the region are utterly shiftless.
"The zero-level standard joke about laziness is how a Montenegro guy
masturbates," he said. "He digs a hole in the earth, puts his penis in,
and waits for the earthquake." The pleasure that Montenegrins take in
telling the joke seems to Mr. Zizek to be the correct attitude toward
both laziness and political incorrectness. "Instead of being afraid of
this attitude," he said, "you freely, in a gesture of Bataillean
autonomy and sovereignty, assume" the quality attributed to you.
It is not, however, an attitude that Mr. Zizek takes into the classroom.
"I don't teach," he tells Zizek Watch. "Why should I teach? I'm not crazy."
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